By Claire Ferris-Lay
Gulf emirate is one of the safest places in the world, says chairman of state-backed hotel group
The chairman of Jumeirah Group, the state-backed hotel firm that
operates Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, has spoken out against a poll branding Dubai one
of the least safe tourism destinations.
A poll of British holidaymakers published last week placed
Dubai alongside Mexico, South Africa and Jamaica as countries they feel least
safe in, a result condemned by Gerald Lawless.
“You can go into our hotels now and just do a sample of all
of our guests and ask if you think Dubai is safe and 99.9 percent of our guests
will say; ‘Absolutely, it is one of the if not the safest destinations in the
world,’” Lawless told Arabian Business
on the sidelines of a Dubai event.
“It’s a misconception. There is something wrong because I
don’t believe it for one second.”
Dubai, which welcomes an estimated one million British
visitors each year, came fifth in a survey which asked travellers which
destinations they felt most at risk in.
The survey by UK-based travel agency Sunshine polled 2,916
people aged 21 and over and asked them to rate destinations they had visited in
the last three years for security.
Dubai has received high-profile coverage in the British
press in recent years, following a spate of arrests relating to crimes such as
the illegal consumption of alcohol and culturally inappropriate behaviour. The
British Embassy said in 2009 that Brits were more likely to be arrested in the
UAE than anywhere else in the world.
Jumeirah Group, which operates luxury hotels and resorts
owned by Dubai’s government, said tourism in the emirate was showing an uptick after
visitor numbers fell after the financial crisis.
“Some average room rates are now as good as they were before
the financial crisis, particularly in the beach hotels,” Lawless said.
Rates across Jumeirah’s 2,600 rooms declined 25 percent
during the global economic crisis.
“Are average room rates coming up? Yes, it is of course. Peaks
of average room rate will not be sustained for such long periods [as before the
crisis]. I think average room rates are at a very satisfactory level and we
have no problems with the rates we are achieving now,” he said.
Jumeirah Group plans to open about nine hotels this year,
including two in the Maldives. Properties will also be opened in Frankfurt,
Shanghai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
I have visited Dubai with my 6 month pregnant wife and my father-in-law in summer during month of Ramadan. There was no restaurant open, so we managed to buy some food stuff only for my pregnant wife until we can get back to our hotel. We found a very quite place near the Creek and park our car facing the river. My wife sat under the seat to eat some, the way no one can see.
Suddenly a local guy, who claimed himself a plain cloth police -god knows- started punching the window, shouting loudly. I opened the door and he grabbed me out of the car and shouted that we are guilty of eating in Ramadan. He told me that he saw us from within a boat window as he was resting there.
He shouted for more than 15 minutes constantly, while my father-in-law and me begged him to leave my pregnant woman and not to take her to their filthy police station.
He called some one else to come in. My wife was scared and we were hopeless. They finally left us after good scary half and hour. Define safety?
As a Brit when I read this survey reporting Dubai to be unsafe I really could not understand whom they must have asked. As someone who has to travel to Dubai several times a year in my capacity as editor in chief for www.ThatDubaiSite.com and also as a holidaymaker there I can truly state that there findings appear to be tabloid nonsense.
You may consider that I would be bias given my job, but I have spoken to countless people both in the UK and the UAE and never has anyone ever voiced their concerns about Dubai being unsafe.
When out in the streets of even the less glamorous parts of Dubai have I ever felt unsafe, whilst as with any one with common sense I keep my wits about me just in case I truly have never stumbled across anything that ever led me to believe that Dubai was unsafe.
Hopefully as more and more people visit Dubai for themselves and more accurate & truthful tourist information sites open up, misinformation such as this will receive little attention.
I am not sure whether Gerald Lawless is Irish or British, but he should log on to The British Foreign and Commonwealth and read their advice to travellers to the UAE and also a number of other senior European nations. I quote:
"having a high threat from terrorism, incidences of sexual assault, much higher rate of traffic accidents, a jail sentence for using obscene language and gestures or public displays of affection", and finally, "alcoholic drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs, but it is a punishable offence to drink, or to be drunk, in public." Profile cases like the imprisoned employee from Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in UAE, only serve to underwrite the worst.
Consular Report "British Behaviour Abroad", based on consular statistics, found that of the 20 countries in the world with the largest British expatriate populations, Britons are more likely to be arrested in the UAE.
I think Lawless knows exactly what is meant by unsafe, only he can't admit it! It's not the "mugging-etc.-unsafe", but the always unknown - and always present - reaction of locals (as Bruce writes) and authorities alike. Back home one knows exactly what penalties DUI, being drunk and disorderly etc. etc. carry; or at least has an idea. In the UAE penalties are absolutely random.
Ok, you ask about defining safety, ok then. Definition, for me, of safety.
Can my Wife walk down the street on her own during the hours of darkness?
In Dubai, absolutely yes, and in any part of the city.
In Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, London, absolutley not.
If people come here on holiday then they should be aware that the rules about Ramadam are not something that are optional, people take their religion seriously here and want it to be respected.
Let us consider the gentleman in your story. Did you consider he was someone who had not eaten or drank since before dawn and would not eat until after dusk? Are you sure you were not eating as well, maybe a little bit thinking no-one would notice? As for your comments about filthy police stations I can't understand how you knew what it was like unless you went there, basically your story does not add up.
Neil, I fast as do millions of Muslims. Most of us dont go into a fit if we see a pregnant woman eating. It is nothing to do with taking religion seriously.
It is insulting to imply that he or she cannot tolerate seeing someone else eat.
Of course there are people in Middle East who pretend that eating in front of them tempts them but they are just people with poor self control.
I even know of a 2 year old child whose parents were attacked by a similar person for drinking water in a bus
Neil...You sound like a fool, re-read the story and then have a think. This is the experience of a visitor here, you were not there and therefore don`t have any right to criticise what happened to him. As other people have clearly written the poll concerns the arbitrary nature of the Laws here, and in that case they make foreigners ill at ease and it is not about the safety of people here. Also before getting agressive and trying to sound off a lesson in spelling would be good, `Ramadam`? You could get arrested for that.
I noticed you said people take their religion seriously. That's fine. But please let me know if it is okay for a pregnant woman to fast in Ramadan or not according to the same religion that you are referring to? You assumed (and then you judged) that I have eaten a bit too, that is not true. However, in Islam passengers (visitors) are not supposed to be fast, even if I was eating (that was not the case).
I also noticed that you again assumed the only way to know that the police station detention is filthy is to be there. Firstly no police detention is hygienic in the entire world. Secondly there are stories about them everywhere (such as: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1189069/This-like-filthy-labour-camp-says-Sally-Antia-adultery-mother-locked-Dubai-jail-hell.html and http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/courts/officers-convicted-of-beating-suspects). continued...
I would also refer to UN document (http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,ARE,4562d8cf2,441821a62f,0.html) where it says: legal and societal discrimination against women and noncitizens.
You also mentioned women are unsafe at night in London, whereas the buses are running 24/7 in London; tube closes at 1am and most pubs are up till early morning. Women walking half naked and drunk and are getting back home safe in most cases. I realise some cases exist in London, but if you google number of rape cases in Dubai and consider the population proportion (6-7 million in London) that is equally the same probability and there is no public transport at the time you are referring to.
You mentioned that I should consider he was a person who hadn't eaten for a while. Do you suggest that a fast person can legally attack people just because he is fast and [continue...]
[continue] and expect god to accept his fast as worship? to gain control on himself?
Finally, as far as I know we have not been in 'public'. A tourist 'private' place would be a quite corner, in his rented car, hiding under the seat, trying not to show off.
Let me share my opinion of the definition of a "tourist destination safety":
-To respect the tourist safety and happiness.
-To give tourist the same priority and rights as they give to its citizens (of course in a touristic manner, I don't mean make them kings).
-To respect the tourist lawful culture (inclusive) equally as much as they do for themselves.
-To be reasonable and tolerable to the tourist requirements and be respectful and polite.
For avoidance of any doubt, I don't have any issue with being strict or over religious, or to want all the advantages for locals. There are number of other countries doing so, but they won't insist to call themselves a 'top tourist destination' when tourist comes under other priorities.